Change Makers

Siam Organic ensures better living for farmers in Thailand

Here is an inspirational quote from Pornthida Wongphatharakul for all aspiring social entrepreneurs “Life of a social entrepreneur is incredibly difficult. It challenges every possible limit of us, physically, emotionally and spiritually. But it gives us the greatest joy in life.”

On a further note, she says, “When we see the smiles on the farmers’ faces, we realize what a privilege we have to live a life of happiness and meaning. We hope that what the accomplishments of Siam Organic will inspire young people to dream big and realize that it is really possible to create a company that not only makes the profit but more importantly give opportunities to those in need and help transform their lives forever.”

The entrepreneurial journey of Pornthida Wongphatharakul and Peetachai Dejkraisak, the co-founders of Siam Organic Co Ltd, is enough to motivate young people to dream beyond limits.

The journey starts

It was during their MBA at Sasin Graduate Institute, Chulalongkom University in Thailand, that Pornthida and Peetachai came across the issue of poverty among 17 million Thai farmers and the big government rice scheme that created problem across the country.

Pornthida recollects the start of Siam Organic, “We had combined experiences as an environmental engineer, investment banker, financial and business advisory. With passion in the health and organic products, we started to look into the problem in a deeper area and tried to find a business model that could solve this problem among Thai farmers in a sustainable and scalable manner. We spent the first 2 years understanding the farmers and found that the area that was most affected by the government public policy is the North Eastern part of Thailand and that’s where we began our project.”

The venture

Siam Organic, started in 2011, is a certified social business venture in Thailand that aims to transform small-scale farmers through innovative organic products with a global appeal. It manages the entire value chain by forming two main cooperative bodies, namely ‘The Organic Grower Cooperatives’ and ‘Production Cooperatives.’ Both the cooperatives are owned by farmers.

According to the founder, “Our work includes working with the farmers to maximize the yields and reduce farming input costs. We support these farmers from the North Eastern part of Thailand, the most impoverished region, to grow Jasberry® rice under international organic certification. We are also working with Kiva, the world’s largest microfinancing, and cloud funding platform to provide our farmers with small loans for high-quality rice seeds and organic fertilizers.”

Jasberry is a new variety of rice, developed through natural cross-breeding method (non-GMO) in Thailand. It is dark purple in color, which gives the rice very high antioxidants level. The products are available in major retail channels throughout Thailand, food service channels.

The venture works with more than thousand farmers in the North Eastern part of Thailand. Pornthida asserts, “Besides the increase of income, we have also improved their yield and reduce their farming input costs. Their income has increased from USD 0.40 per day to USD 5.8 per day, an increase of approximately 14 times.”

She continues about the achievement, “Our company has been assessed by 3rd party Social Impact Organization. Shujog, who did a social impact measurement on our company under a sponsorship under GRAISEA program as most of our farmers and the head of Grower cooperatives are female. The result of SROI is 4.3 times. It means that every 1 dollar we invest in Siam Organic, it generates 4.3 dollars social return to the farmers.”

Siam organics is currently working in the process of exporting the rice and other rice-derived products to overseas.

However, according to Pornthida, “social enterprise is still a very new concept in Thailand where you have to balance between business strategies and social impact. It has been very challenging for us to recruit team members with positive attitude and understanding in this area.”